You only have to look at the clean, strong logo of Firmalt, the Monterrey-based branding and design agency, for an example of their attention to detail and love of structured processes. Founded in 2012 by industrial designer Manuel Llaguno and civil engineer Francisco Puente, Firmalt has applied that rigor—balanced by a sense of play and keen eye for color—to great effect for a range of fashion, food, and corporate clients.
“Every single client we’ve worked with has a certain vision for their company, something they want to communicate,” Llaguno says. “We form ourselves around our clients instead of forcing clients to align within a specific aesthetic.”
Atelán, a company that showcases local and international luxury fashion designers in Latin America, is a prime example of Firmalt’s process. “With Atelán we developed the brand story where the key idea was to create a symbol that would represent a collaborative community of hugely talented designers,” Llaguno explains. “We had a very open communication with clear and constructive feedback sessions, resulting in a beautiful identity for a community that has been growing since.”
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s Las Naciones, a fast-casual restaurant that sought out Firmalt to develop their entire brand strategy, from communications to packaging to interiors. “We wanted to give Las Naciones an international aesthetic. We researched different ways of communication in places where cultures and nationalities collide, and found a variety of fascinating symbols and wayfinding systems,” Llaguno says. The result is a logotype that focuses on the most recognizable international method of identification: the flag. The five stars in the logo represent the restaurant’s first five creations from five different countries.
Then there was the packaging to consider. “Through rigorous prototyping we were able to reduce the amount of material while retaining structural integrity. In combination with single-color printing, we developed beautiful and functional packaging that was incredibly inexpensive,” Llaguno says.
Firmalt gave the company’s branding a delicate typographic touch to allow photos of the jewelry to take center stage. “The idea behind every collateral design was to recreate travelling instruments, such as guides, maps, and compasses.” The travel concept is subtly applied elsewhere, too. For example, the typography for the monograph takes cues from different alphabets, including Arabic and Russian.
The appeal of companies like Sanlo, La Naciones, and Atelán stems from Firmalt’s desire to work well beyond the Mexican border, and the international client list they’ve racked up in the past three years is impressive. If you look through Firmalt’s portfolio you’ll notice they aren’t pushing a single distinct aesthetic, though that’s by design as well. “Having the client actively involved in the brand creation process naturally gives way to having a very diverse visuals in our projects, instead of having a recognizable agency style,” Llaguno says. It’s also a natural result of putting the client’s needs before the studio’s—and that’s simply good business, no matter where you are.